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Of railroad tracks and coming to a conclusion

[ by Charles Cameron — playing off the new George Smiley movie ]


This is George Smiley‘s mind, just that moment before he understands who the mole in the Circus must be, at the 1.36.27 point in Tomas Alfredson‘s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

A moment before that, the light was green:

Moments later, the points slam into their new configuration, Smiley’s train of thought is shunted along a new track, and all is understood.


It’s a beautiful, subtle illustration of the idea that the mind “knows” that it has decided, some moments before a conscious intent registers – in line with the general idea suggested, not as proven but as fascinating speculation, in Nature last August:

The conscious decision to push the button was made about a second before the actual act, but the team discovered that a pattern of brain activity seemed to predict that decision by as many as seven seconds.

And it makes graphical use of the same changing points idiom I used myself in my post Of railroad tracks and polyphonic thinking here on ZP, not so very long ago.

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